I went to see two movies over the weekend, one I was looking forward to, one I expected to disappoint. In the end the movies were the opposite of what I expected.
First of all the movie I expected to hate, War of the Worlds. I've grown to dislike Stephen Spielberg science fiction movies. I find them just a little too nice and happy. I didn't take to the TV series Taken, and Minority Report was a bit of a pointless waste of computer graphics power. Tom Cruise has also started to drift into eccentric madness with his public "romancing" of Katie Holmes and his appearance on Oprah. I didn't expect much from War of the Worlds, except a standard piece of American flag waving, CGI filled, Tom Cruise saves the world, dross that has flooded from Hollywood over the last few years.
Instead it seemed to be intelligent, well made, and entertaining. Cruises character is too busy trying to save his family to spend too much time saving the world. Dakota Fanning is good in the role, and her child like confusion and fear at the attack makes a nice addition to the usual sci-fi child hero. Her questioning "Is it the terrorists? Is it from Europe?" highlight a lack of understanding of the subtleties of world politics that is present in American politics as well as its children. There isn't much flag waving. At the start of the movie every house seems to have an American flag flying, but by the end there are none to be seen. America hasn't been able to save the world, as one of the characters points out the greatest power and the greatest military on the planet has been overrun in a couple of days. Is Spielberg trying to send a message? Armies and weapons wont always save mankind. Its well worth going to see, while the last 10 minutes are a little weak the rest of the movie makes it worth the entrance fee.
The other movie, which proved a disappointment, was The Fantastic Four. I had great hopes for it, but in the end the movie makers were following a formula and checking off the boxes. This produces an acceptable movie, but nothing special or memorable. The best thing in it is Michael Chiklis who does play Ben Grimm/The Thing. He looks the part, even before the radiation hits him and he manages to do some acting with all those prosthetics and make-up on. Jessica Alba playing Sue Storm/The Invisible Girl is lovely to look at, but was much better in Sin City. She really doesn't seem to get much to do, stripping in public seeming to be the greatest benefit of her new powers, unfortunately she is invisible at the time. As she says herself "I cant believe I'm doing this again". Chris Evans plays the Johnny Storm/Human Torch and in fact just seems like childish spoilt idiot who you cant believe could have been accepted into NASA to be an astronaut. Ioan Gruffudd just doesn't have the gravity to play the leader of the bunch, Reed Richards/Mr Fantastic, spending most of the movie complaining about his past mistakes. Julian McMahon as Victor Von Doom\Dr Doom is just rehashing his role from Nip/Tuck and Charmed, I think he even stole his wardrobe from those shows.
The set piece on the Brooklyn Bridge almost seems like a Basil Fawlty style series of comic accidents that fail to impress. The climactic battle also lacks any grandeur leaving the movie feeling a little anti-climactic. Throughout the whole movie it seems that the Fantastic Four spend more time fighting each other than they do fighting Dr Doom. Its a shame because this movie had great potential. Maybe they are hoping to get a franchise, so spent too much time introducing the characters, but they will have done great damage to the long term future of any franchise with this weak start. I think anyone older than 13 will be disappointed, but anyone 13 and younger will probably love it.
In the end neither movie is likely to make it into my DVD collection.